THE HEIRS OF KELLIE
AN EPISODE OF FAMILY HISTORY
Sir Walter Oliphant of Kellie in Fife was a man who had grown old amid
many perturbations of the State and of the house. In Mary's stormy and
troubled day he had been, as many were, not so certain in his beliefs,
either political or religious, as a person of so much consequence in his
county ought to have been. He had been the Queen's man, and he had been
the King's man, without, however, being either a time-server or a
turncoat. He was one of those who would have given his life to prove his
Queen's innocence, but who all the time could not but feel that this
would be a poor argument, and no evidence at all, against the cold chill
of doubt that lingered all the time even in his own heart. And his
reason was convinced of the advantages of the English alliance, and that
everything must be risked rather than King James's heirship,
notwithstanding the strong revolt in his heart against that which was so
likely to follow, the abandonment of Scotland, and ebbing away of her
dearly-bought glory and the pride of her independence, second to none.
But all the active struggles of life had died away from him when he sate
in his old hall, in the dreary years after the Court had gone away to
London, drawing so many with it; and the change had stricken to the
heart of Scotland, as wise men had known it would, although all the
country had cheered and shouted when their king assumed the English
crown, as if it had been by his prowess and for their greatness that he
had won that other kingdom. The land was subdued and troubled in these
days, yet did not venture to complain; for had not they desired that
which had come to pass? And the Kirk was troubled and uncertain too,
alarmed by threatenings of interference, though no great thing had yet
been attempted, and the ministers still had dominion more or less, and,
though many things were tolerated that had been condemned, still guided
most things their own way.
But all the affairs of the world had grown dim to Sir Walter Oliphant,
sitting in his little warm chamber—the room of panelled and carved oak,
which opened from the hall of Kellie Castle, as all the chief rooms did
and do to this day, without any chill of corridors or passages, but one
room out of another, after the ancient fashion. He sat by his fire, and
his mind was full of thoughts. He was an old man, but not so old in
years as in condition. His life, which had been a stirring one, was far
off from him, as if it had been a dream. There were times when it came
up into his mind like a tale that had been told, with which he had
little to do—the time when he was stout and strong, and rode out to
feast and to fight, and came back to hear the shouts and the sports of
his boys making the rafters ring. He thought of all these things
sometimes vaguely, as of things that had been; but at present his
occupation was chiefly to keep himself warm, and to think who should be
the heir of his Castle and his lands when he should be carried for the
last time down the winding stair. He was not much concerned about that,
any more than he was concerned for all that had happened to him in the
past: but the thought of who should have Kellie after him was still real
in his mind. That the natural heirs were gone had caused him bitter
sorrow in his day; but even that had grown far away and dim to him, and
all his life had shrunk into the routine of getting up from his bed and
going back to it—both tiresome processes—and swallowing the food that
had no taste, and sitting by the fire that had so little warmth. Only
this one thing held him, the great care of making up his mind who was to
be the heir of Kellie in the days when he should be there no more.
It was not that he was without kin or heirs-at-law. There was one even
at his own hearthstone who might well have ended all difficulties, being
its natural inheritress. Though Sir Walter was an old man, he had a
sister who was little more than a girl, though that is a strange thing
to think of. His father had lived long, and had made a foolish marriage
in his old age, and left behind him a child much younger than his
grandsons, and who was like a grandchild to her brother. She had grown
up in the house, the plaything of everybody, her right to her home never
doubted, yet without any position in it. When the others disappeared
Jean remained, and it might be that the father bereaved felt in the
bottom of his heart some grudge that she of whom no account was made
should continue when the loftier heads were laid low. But if this was in
his heart he did not betray it. She grew and blossomed out, and came to
her full height, which was not small, and was now of an age to be
considered the lady of the house. And no doubt, the old knight might
easily have given her to a fitting wooer, and thus found himself an heir
among the best blood of Fife; but of this he never thought, nor of Jean
his little sister as in any sense his successor. It angered him greatly
when Master Melville of Carnbee kirk and parish took it upon him to
speak a word to this effect. "Her, the heiress!" cried the old knight,
with a roar in his throat like a wounded lion. And he would not speak to
Master Melville again for many a day.
"And wha but her should be the heir?" said Mistress Marjory, the old
nurse, who had long been the housekeeper at Kellie, and to whom Jean was
as the light of her eyes. "Waes me for all the bonnie lads that are
away! and no an Oliphant left to keep up the honour of the old house.
But though she's but a lass she has the blood as well as any one, knight
or lord, that ever owned the name. And wherefore should she not get a
good man and raise up the race?"
"If she had a good man the morn the race she would raise up would be for
his house and no hers," said Neil Morison, who was the head of the other
section of the household, and in most things opposed to Mistress
Marjory. He gave forth a dry laugh, as was his wont, and added, "For all
so grand as ye are, the name never comes from the side of the distaff.
That's aye something to our side."
"There's times," said the housekeeper, "when nae less a thing than a
crown comes from that side—as is well kent in poor auld Scotland this
"Ye may say that," said Neil, forced into sudden sympathy, "and if we
had vanquished thae English loons by our swords and our spears, as it is
written in Scripture, it would hae been the better way."
"Oh, hold your tongue with your spears and your swords! It would set ye
better, Maister Morison, to do what you can with our auld knight and
keep sore injustice out of his head—for who should have the lands after
him but his ain flesh and blood?"
"It would never do, it would never do," cried Neil. "A lass! that
couldna keep her ain heid, and muckle less the old Oliphant lands—that
are not what they used to be, lack-a-day, whoever was the heir."
"What are they colloguing about, the two great rulers of the house,"
said a young voice, bursting in as its owner did, with a sudden gush of
fresh air and the fragrance of the outdoor world, "putting each other in
mind of the greatness of the Oliphants, now that it's like the Flowers
of the Forest, and a' wede away."
"Mistress Jean! and a' in a confusion, your hair about your haffits, and
the lace torn off your riding-coat! What has happened to you? Will ye
never mind what a' the house tells you, that it sets you not, a lady
like you, to ride a powney about the roads like a farmer's lass."
"Or maybe worse things than that," said Neil, who had risen hurriedly to
his feet on the young lady's entrance, and shot this Parthian arrow at
her as he went away.
"I will shoot that auld carle some day if he looks at me so," she cried,
with a sudden gleam of anger, then laughed and clapped her hands, "with
my bow and arrows," she added, merrily. "We'll put him against the
castle wall, and pin him to't like that bonny saint in the old picture.
What's happened, said she? A great deal has happened. I have had a grand
adventure, Marjory, simple as I sit here."
"Oh, bairn, bairn!" cried the housekeeper, "you'll just break my heart."
"It's been broken so often, and aye mended again," said the girl. "Wait
till I tell you. I was rattling along on the Pittenweem road, my pony
and me, very well pleased with the fine day, and just singing to
ourselves, for it was too sunny to keep silence; when lo! I was aware of
a horse's hoofs coming pelting after me. I thought what you said, never
to mind, but just keep the road quietly and pay no attention. I would
not even give a look over my shoulder to see if it was one of the
Anstruthers or Roland Dishington, till I came to a corner and gave a
glint. And it was a muckle trooper on a muckle grey horse, not canny to
see, and no another soul within sight."
"Lord bless my soul! ane of the disbanded Greys!" cried Marjory, lifting
up her hands and eyes. "Oh, lassie, lassie! will ye never learn?"
"My heart was in my mouth," said Jean, whose eyes were dancing, however,
with excitement and triumph, "but I had to keep up my courage. I gave
the pony just a touch to speed her on—and you know she cannot thole
even a touch, she has such a spirit. And then there came a muckle
voice, as muckle as the man, calling to me, Hey, my bonnie lass! and
hey, my bonnie bird! The cannaillye! to use such words to me!"
Jean's eyes shone with a momentary gleam of rage and shame. "It is maybe
my fault," she said, "as ye are always telling me, to ride alone; but
who would I get to come behind? No Maister Morison, the major-domo, nor
Jamie Webster, that is everybody's man, nor Jaicque the groom. No, no;
there's nobody to follow Jean: so I must either bide in the house or
ride my lane."
"My darlin'! and what did he do?"
"Oh, no harm," cried the girl, laughing, "since here I am, and none the
worse but for the lace on my cape, that he gave a snatch at as he came
up thundering, till I thought it was a real charge of cavalry, and I
would be ridden down."
"Lassie! and how did ye escape? For gude sake dinna keep me in my
"There is no need for trouble," said Jean, "since here you see me:
though I allow," she added, with a pleasure in working upon the old
lady's fears, "that a minute longer and I cannot tell what I would have
done; for he had gripped my cape in his hand, though the pony was just
flying, and the muckle grey horse thundering, and my heart bursting out
of my throat with fright and fury." She paused, half from the keenness
of the recollection and half maliciously, to pile up the agony.
"And then? and then?"
"Then?" said Jean, looking innocently into her old nurse's face. "Why,
then! there was just nothing more."
"Oh, bairn! you are enough to drive ten women out of their senses."
"Well," said Jean, "I will admit there were causes for it. But just at
that moment there came another galloping, just as muckle a horse and as
muckle a man, on the other side. And my man he dropped hold of my cape,
and tore the lace off it with his glove, as you see. And the pony, she
just set her feet to the ground as if she were riding a race, and the
new man and my man they faced each other. I'm thinking nothing happened.
I saw with that eye I have in the back of my head that they rode up to
each other awfu' civil, like two towers; and then the trooper he took
the turn to St Monance, and me I flew up the Carnbee road, and the grand
adventure was done. You can see I'm not a prin the worse, except my
riding-cape, and Kirsten must just sew on the lace again."
"And that was a'!" cried Mistress Marjory, relieved, but at the same
time a little disappointed to hear no more.
"All! was it not enough?" said Jean; "would you have had me assaulted on
the king's highway, and put in peril of my purse, that has nothing in
it, or maybe of my life, which has not very much——" Jean made a pause,
and then, looking up demurely, she said in very quiet tones, "No; it was
"Oh, my hinny,—you just play upon me as if I were a fiddle."
"You are much more like a harpsichord," said Jean, contemplating the
housekeeper's ample person reflectively. "Yon man after he had dispersed
the trooper never came rushing up as Roland Dishington or one of the
Ansters would have done, but just rode steady behind as if he had been
my servant." The word has or had two meanings, and probably the second
of these flashed over her memory, for she made an almost imperceptible
pause and reddened. "I was still a little feared: and what did I do but
head the pony for yon house you know, of Over-Kellie, where you never
would let me go——"
"And then?" cried Mistress Marjory again, breathless.
"Well, they came fleeing out, and he, he came riding in. And it was who
would be the most concerned, and was I hurt and was I frightened, and
would I bide and rest? The Leddy—or is she the Gudewife?—for I could
"Some calls her the one and some the other," said Marjory, shortly.
"Never you mind. You'll be telling me now the man that came up
and—saved ye was——"
"That is just it," said Jean, "and if you'll tell nobody, Marjory, I'll
just whisper in your ear—he's a bonnie lad."
"Mistress Jean!" cried the housekeeper in consternation.
"Well! say he's just a country fellow, and no grand cock to his hat, nor
lace on his coat: I am not saying he's a grand gentleman. But I have a
pair of sharp eyes in my head,—you are always saying that,—and I
cannot but see what's set before them. He is a bonnie lad; and that is
just as true as all the rest."
"What do you call a' the rest?"
"You know as well as I do; or maybe you know better," said Jean, with a
little indignation; "because he is Peter Oliphant, and because he is the
next of kin, that's not to say that he is not a bonnie lad!"
"It might be a good reason, Mistress Jean, for you kenning naething
about him, and no going out of your way to make acquaintance with
"Me go out of my way to make acquaintance with him! Neither him nor any
man, if it were a prince or a king! It was he that came out of his way
to protect a lass he knew nothing of when he saw she was in need. Maybe
you would have thought it better had he left me to the trooper?" said
the girl, with much indignation.
"Oh, no that, no that," said the old woman; "but it would have been
better you had not put yourself in the way of wanting protection, my
bonnie leddy—no from him nor from any man!" she said.
"You forget who you are speaking to," cried Mistress Jean, with quick
anger, flinging away. But she came back next minute to fling her arms
round her old nurse's neck. "And that's true," she said; "I was just
thinking so mysel'."
While this was going on, Sir Walter was sitting in his warm panelled
chamber, pondering by the side of the fire. His old Castle, which was
not one of the famous strongholds of the time, but yet an ancient house
dating far back into the mist of ages, and standing four-square to all
the winds that blew, a house that time could scarcely wear more than the
rocks, would soon be a desolate and masterless house. Since the days of
Bruce the Oliphants had been there, and the first lord of Kellie had
good King Robert's blood in his veins. But now there was no one to come
after him in the old home of his race. The gloom of that consciousness
had settled down upon his mind, and filled him with an immense and
indescribable darkness in which he went tottering, seeking for something
to replace what was lost, though by moments he was not very clear as to
what it was that was lost, which made it necessary for him to grope in
the dark and seek that substitute. And his thoughts were very slow,
wandering, and confused, though they always came back with unbroken
persistency to the one point. Who should have Kellie after him? Who
would replace the heirs who were no more? This had been the
preoccupation of many years; it almost seemed as if all his life he had
been thinking of it. His own active days had vanished away, and all the
adventures and troubles that had filled his house with rejoicing and
with wailing. Sometimes while he sat musing on that one sole question he
would be surprised by a recollection of himself, as in the days when he
rode in Queen Mary's train, or those in which he hung about the
ante-chambers at St James's, half proud to feel himself one of the new
masters there, half furious to see the dark looks which the Southern
lords threw upon King James's train. Was that himself? or one of the
former Oliphants who held a larger train at Kellie? or perhaps one of
the young ones—the lads, the——, those who ought to have been here to
receive Kellie from his hands. Their faces would sometimes flash out
from his memory too. Who were they, old heirs of Kellie slain in the
wars, or lost in the wildering world, never coming back to claim their
heritage? And who was to have it now? Who would keep it safe, and guard
all its rights and keep up the auld name? On this subject his thoughts
would clear, his mind retained its force. It was the one clear point in
the misty universe of dreams that surrounded the old man.
Almost his only visitors were the clergymen of the two neighbouring
parishes, each of which claimed Kellie Castle as part of its own. He
retained enough of his natural keenness to perceive that each of them
took a different side in this great question, and sometimes to play upon
their contradictions with something of the pleasure which the quarrels
of priests and women between themselves so often afford to a man of the
world. The difference between them gave him a vague amusement, or
something at least as like amusement as he was capable of. Master
Melville of Carnbee was a Reformation minister who had known John Knox,
and who, though of a much milder temper, was yet very strong as to his
duty of speaking in season and out of season, and letting no man avoid
or mistake his duty without full warning of it; but Sir John Low at
Pittenweem was no better than a mass priest the country folk said, and
loved the great, and to speak smooth things, flattering the old laird
and supporting him in taking his own way. Sir Walter listened to what
they said on both sides, but he was little moved by their arguments.
What he was really doing while he seemed to be listening was slowly
settling upon his own plans, and deciding for himself while they talked,
which neither of them was at all unwilling to do. It was Mr Melville who
was his visitor the day after the incident in the last chapter, a grave
man of gentle manners, with a black velvet cap upon a bald head.
"What are ye saying?" said Sir Walter. "Reason gude—ay, I've reason
gude for all I say to you. It's no fit that an auld race should die out
of the land."
"And yet," said the other, in the heat of argument, "if it's so
ordained, it's ill striving with the Will aboon. But ye have heirs in
plenty at your hand, and little danger of your name. How often must I
be telling ye, Sir Walter Oliphant, there is your ain father's daughter,
your ain flesh and blood, the one that has the best right? Where would
ye go furder than your ain ingleside? Who could be so near to you? and
young and likely and one to raise up heirs—always if it be the
"Who's that," said the old knight. "Jean! a bit lassie! how often have I
tellt you, minister? just as often as you have tellt me. What would I do
with a lassie in my seat, that could neither keep the house nor keep her
head, a thing with neither might nor right? Na! that will not do for
"She would get a man," said Mr Melville.
"Ay, she would get a man! little doubt of that: and my auld lands would
be sweepit up into lands that march with mine, and there would be an
Anster of Kellie, or a Dishington, or a Lindsay, or the Lord knows what.
No! if I have said it once I have said it a hundred times, nae lass
shall reign and rule in my auld house."
"Well-a-well, well-a-well! if ye say so," said the minister, "I have no
certain teaching about the heirship of a woman, though the daughters of
Zelophehad had a portion with their brethren, as we read in the Book of
Numbers; but I would not force the word of the Lord, and that might be a
special case. But ye know well, Sir Walter, as well as I do, that
failing her, there's one of your blood no far from your door that is as
weel capable of keeping his ain house and his ain head as Arthur and a'
his knights. And that is Peter Oliphant of Over-Kellie——"
"Pah!" the old man spat vehemently into the smouldering fire. "I will
have none of him—a country clown—a callant from the plough. And what
was his father but a clown before him, with no more spirit of a
gentleman than Neil, my man?"
"Neil," said the minister, "is a decent man now, whatever he may have
been; but would pocket a crown-piece and hold his tongue if any grand
gallant had need of him: whereas your cousin of Over-Kellie, Sir
"Cousin! a hundred times removed!"
"Is it you I hear shaming your own blood?" said the other. "Me, I am
maybe a hundred times, as you say, or more, removed from the head of my
name; but I have yet to learn," the minister added, raising his head,
"that the strain of the younger is less pure than the strain of the
elder when it flows in an unbroken and lawful line."
"I ken, and we all ken," said Sir Walter, subdued, "minister, that
there's no better name in Fife——"
"I am standing upon no such vanities," said Melville. "Your cousin has
neither been at the College nor at the Court, Sir Walter, and maybe as
well for him in these evil days; but he's a handy man at his weapons,
and a lad that kens his own mind. There's no man in the parish better
kent or better liked, or more a man of his word. I ken but little of my
Lord Oliphant, or of his house; but well I wot there is not a better in
it than Pate, or one that can master him, or daunton him, among the best
of his name."
"Ye mean the lad to wed one of your lasses, that you are so hot upon
him," Sir Walter said.
"I ken well," said Melville, "what lass I want him to wed; but she is
none of mine. Will you see the young man, Sir Walter, and judge for
yourself? I will bring him to you in my hand, for he has always been a
good lad to his minister; though he would not set foot over your
door-stane for other motives."
"And wherefore," cried Sir Walter, "would this farmer-lad no set foot
over my door-stane?"
"For an evil reason," said the minister; "for pride, and a high head
that would not stoop before any man but the king."
"Ha! ha!" cried the old knight; "bring me this clown with his high head
that would not stoop under the door of Kellie Castle. Bigger men than
him have entered at that door—ay, and stooped too, and even bitten the
dust before them that owned it. He's then a deevil of pride and conceit,
this yeoman lad of yours."
"Ye are right, and again right, Sir Walter," said the minister, gravely,
"when you say that pride, the pride that you, and even myself, that
should ken better, take in the vanity of a name—is a devilish thing."
"If that were all!" Sir Walter said, with a snap of his thumb and
finger, which failed and gave no sound. He paused, and his countenance
grew grave as he observed this, looking with a half piteous surprise at
his own large feeble hand. "I canna even snap my thoom," he said under
his breath. Then with a feeble wave of that hand to his companion, he
added, "If it's to be done, lose no time."
This was the warrant upon which the minister brought Peter Oliphant to
Kellie Castle. He had as much trouble with the young man as he had with
the old. The house of Over-Kellie was still excited by the flying visit
of Mistress Jean when the minister reached it; and the Leddy, or the
Gudewife—for Marjory said truly that she was called sometimes one and
sometimes the other, according to the courtesy or indifference of her
rare visitors—could not be persuaded that the extraordinary mission of
the minister had not something to do with that exciting incident. The
Mistress felt that her Peter was called to the Castle to receive the
hand of the Princess, who must have found time enough in the ten minutes
of her stay to fall in love with him; and that this event at once and
for ever established his claims as heir-at-law, and made Kellie Castle
his. The young man naturally was more hard to be convinced; but he too
was excited, and not in perfect command of his faculties. If Jean had
discovered that he was a bonnie lad, he had still better means of
discovering that she was fair enough to dream of; and though this
encounter had made her first aware of him, it was by no means the first
time that her humble cousin had seen the young lady of Kellie. And, in
the glow of pride with which he remembered, though no such claim had
ever been acknowledged, that he was the undoubted next of kin, there
was, perhaps, something of a more generous fervour, a warm and noble
sentiment towards the friendless girl to whom the head of the house, as
all the countryside knew, was little more gentle than towards himself.
When Sir Walter died, it was he who would be the nearest in blood to her
to defend her rights or herself. The Lord Oliphant might be the head of
the name: but he was a man who loved gear, and was secretly operating,
as all the countryside believed, to draw the lands of Kellie and the old
Castle to himself.
It was therefore with no small exaltation of mind that Peter Oliphant
flung his bonnet upon his head, notwithstanding his mother's prayers
that he would put on his better suit and the hat in which he appeared at
kirk and market, to show his better breeding. "I will not stand covered
in Sir Walter's presence," he said; "and, as for my clothes, they're
well enough. He knows me for a country loon, whatever fine suit I might
"Loon, did the laddie say? and what next? I would like to see either
knight or yeoman, in all Fife, that would dare to call Peter Oliphant
loon," his mother said.
"And so would I," he said, with a laugh. He was strong and straight and
tall, with the brown hair and the laughing eyes that belonged to his
race. But they were eyes that could look fierce enough when occasion
"By my troth, I would like that better," he continued, as they set out;
"a bout at single-stick, or a good frank blade, I am not that ill at:
but what am I to say to the old laird? a man wants lear for a
presence-chamber, even if it's but an old knight's."
"You have lear enough for that," said the minister, "if you would but
mind half that I have put into you, at the point of the sword, as a man
"A little Latin, and a shelf of old books," said Peter; "but you would
not advise me, Maister Melville, to tirl off a verb to Sir Walter, even
if I could mind it, the first time he has bethought himself that I'm
alive and within reach."
"My lad, I would not lippen to his bethinking himself," said the
minister; "just you mind it's mostly my doing, and my credit's
concerned. Na, I will not tell you, not a word, what to say; nature will
tell you, and that fine spirit of your ain that never let you be overly
modest before me. And I hope, so far as learning goes, I am of more
account than Sir Walter, if that was of any consequence."
"Little doubt of that," said Peter; but he was wise enough to know that
this was indeed of very little consequence, and that it was an extremely
different thing standing before the minister in Carnbee manse, though he
was a man of learning, and thus stepping suddenly into the presence of
old Sir Walter, though he had no letters at all.
Peter Oliphant went into the great hall of Kellie Castle with very
mingled feelings. Though he had lived all his life almost within sight
of the home of his race, he had never crossed the threshold before; and
a kind of awe, a kind of defiance, the inalienable attraction of an
ancient family house, mingled with the indignant sentiment of a scion of
the family upon whom its door has been always closed, made his cheek
glow and his heart beat. This, then, was Kellie, which had been the home
of his fathers, which might be his home if justice prevailed and the law
of heirship and lineage. It was not a splendid place to overawe him. The
house of Kellie was not rich. Whatever superfluity the family had ever
possessed, Sir Walter and his sons had managed to get rid of in the days
when they went to England with King James—perhaps, like so many Scotch
gentlemen, in hope of advancement, but, like so many more, only wasting
their small substance in a brief attempt to hold head among the great
English lords ten times as rich as they were. There were few signs of
grandeur in the hall: a little show of silver on the buffet; heavy old
velvet curtain with tarnished embroideries; some carved furniture of
noble workmanship, marked with the three crescents of the family arms.
Those arms were dimly blazoned, too, on the high, carved mantelpiece,
with that proud motto which poverty turns into a brag or a jest,
according to the humour of the wearer—À tout pourvoir. Peter knew
that much at least, if no other word, of the French tongue, and had said
it over to himself many a day. It was but a sad word in the old house
that had little to provide and few to provide for—none but the old man
and the helpless girl. But if ever this house should come to the strong
hands, that if strength and labour and daring could do it would, so help
him heaven! carry it out to the letter! Peter's head, all throbbing and
resounding with excitement, was in a state of exaltation to which he had
never felt the parallel. And as it happened, the first thing that met
his eye was Mistress Jean, the heroine of the other day's
half-adventure. She was seated on a stool in the recess of the great
window, with a great book clasped in her arms, too heavy to hold, and
over which she was stooping, bent almost double. Jean's kirtle was not
so well preserved nor her snood so fresh as those of his own little
sister at Over-Kellie: and to his yeoman's eyes she was doing nothing
useful, nor perhaps able to do anything useful—a creature not made for
common occupations, but to be kept in sweet leisure and pleasure like
one of the lilies of the field. À tout pourvoir! Here was one of the
things for which it would be his duty to provide. The thought brought a
sudden glow over him—the heat of resolution and enthusiasm. It was the
climax of all those mingled and tumultuous thoughts that had been
surging in his breast.
Jean looked up at the sound of the heavy steps ringing upon the floor,
and, throwing down her heavy book, darted forward; but, seized with a
sudden access of shyness, stopped and drew back before she had come up
to the visitors, and stood looking at them—herself a very pleasant
image, impetuous yet timid, her figure suddenly arrested in all its
swiftness of motion, her lips in their meaning of speech. The sight of
Peter Oliphant, so unexpected an apparition, made her dumb.
"We have come, Mistress Jean," said Mr Melville, "to speak a word with
Sir Walter, so please you, and by your brother's ain desire."
"By his—ain desire!" Jean looked at the pair before her. The well-known
figure of the minister, and the other, so much more interesting, still
in all the novelty of recent discovery, a personage not precisely like
the young Ansters of her acquaintance, wanting something, possessing
something, a different kind of being. Indeed the rustic young gentlemen
were but little superior even in breeding to this handsome yeoman, with
his greater maturity and higher consciousness of life and its struggles.
They were good to laugh with, to mock at, to dance with on the very few
occasions when such an opportunity occurred. But she had met with a
reality of life in the person of this modest yet ardent young man, who
reddened when he looked at her, which Jean had never encountered before.
At Sir Walter's own desire! was it on account of herself, for some
reason connected with that meeting, which some one must have betrayed
and reported? This idea had no time to grow, but it flashed upon her
suddenly, almost choking her with the sudden rise and hurried pulsation
of her heart.
"We will but bide a moment with your permission till Maister Neil comes
forth to bid us to the knight's presence," said the minister. "And it
will not be long, seeing the hour was fixed by himsel'."
"There is somebody with him," said Jean: and then her awe of the
situation yielding a little as she grew familiar with it, she laughed
and added, "It is one you do not love."
"And who may that be?" said Melville. His question was answered in a way
much more significant than any reply of hers. The curtain over the door
of Sir Walter's sitting-room was audibly thrust back, without, however,
revealing immediately the person coming forth: and a voice said,
speaking to the old knight within, "My lord shall hear every word of
your good intentions, every word! it is the thought of a true kinsman,
whatever comes. Be sure my lord shall hear: and farewell, sir, and the
blessing of God."
The new-comer paused to draw the curtain back to its usual folds,
covering the door, and then he turned round, and with a hasty
exclamation of surprise became aware of the group in the hall. He was
more conspicuous in his dress as a clergyman than was the minister of
Carnbee, with something on his dark head that suggested a tonsure,
though no such mark of the beast was permitted in Scotland, and wearing
the cassock of a priest. He came forward, however, with much appearance
of cordiality, "Ah, Brother Melville, it's long since we met! If we've
both come on the same ghostly errand, I wot our penitent will get
something confused in his Belief."
"I come on no ghostly errand," said Mr Melville, "but concerning the
affairs of this fleeting world: which have their importance too, as you
will agree with me."
"That do I—and whiles more bewildering still," said the Curate of
Pittenweem, rubbing his hands. "We have no doubt the luck, my kind
neighbour, to take different views on that subject too."
"It may be so," Melville replied gravely, but he added no more. He had
no inclination to disclose his hand, as his opponent had done
involuntarily by those last words behind the curtain. Low of Pittenweem
looked at him fiercely, but without any visible change of tone.
"And how's all with you, Pate?" he said with a smile. "I heard a bonnie
story the other day of one of these wild soldier fellows that are just a
pest on the roads, and how he was scared away and took the road west,
meddling with no person: for fear of a certain muckle rider, bigger than
himself, from the Over-Kellie gait."
"Oh, and it was me, Sir John!" cried Jean; "and the loon was after me on
my pony, till there came in sight——" Jean stopped suddenly, crimson
all over, half with annoyance at herself for having spoken, half because
of the smiling glance which Low directed from her to Peter Oliphant, and
back again—a smile which developed into a low laugh of malice, and
which filled her with unaccountable shame.
"There came in sight—the palladin, the grand knight"—he said these
words to the accompaniment of his laugh, till every line of Peter's
rustic dress, the blue bonnet in his hand, the heavy shoes on his feet,
seemed to come out under the sarcastic look, as if the curate had been
holding up a candle to show their roughness. And then he turned away,
still laughing softly to himself, and rubbing his hands. "I will not
interrupt such braw company," he said. "Good day to you, Mistress Jean:
and I wish ye, madam, a good fulfilment to all your virtuous wishes; and
one of those days ye can tell your mother, Pate, I'll come in for a
crack, and to hear the country news. Brother Melville, we'll probably
not be so long, you and me, this time of meeting again."
"Maybe not, Maister Low," said Melville.
"Wherever the —— is, there will the eagles be gathered together," said
the other, going lightly towards the door, with a wave of his hand and a
nod of his head. Mr Melville drew a long breath.
"That is no canny forerunner," he said, "Peter, my good lad, for you and
me; but I will haste and see if the auld knight is weariet, or if he'll
see you still. Bide here for me."
When Peter was left alone with the young lady, there was a pause of much
embarrassment between these two young people, so suddenly brought
together by malicious suggestion, and by the involuntary flash of
thought that went from one to another, in the unlikely and unexpected
combination, in which all suddenly, in a moment, they had been placed.
Jean, who was full of saucy words at other times and in other company,
at this moment, when she would have given all her small possessions for
the power to throw one jibe at him, could not find a word to say. It was
Peter, whose grave mood had more solidity and could better resist the
excitement of the situation, who was the first to speak. "I have a
charge from my mother, Mistress Jean, with her duty—which is maybe more
than is due from her to you; but my mother, Lady Jean, though she is the
best woman in the world, was but a farmer's daughter, and cannot get out
of her head that the Laird's daughter is a Princess in the land."
"I have no quarrel with her for that," said Jean, restored to herself;
"but if I am a Princess you will maybe live to be the King. Here we are,
us two, and it's between us, Maister Peter. You are the just heir; but I
am the more just if it were not that I am a lassie, and whose fault is
that? I am sure it is by no will of mine."
"My Lady Jean," said Peter, "you say well it is my just right, as the
next man of the blood; but if by Sir Walter's will it should fall to
you, as may be—mind you this, whatever happens, I'll stand for you
through fire and water, and be your man, and a true kinsman, as long as
"No me!" cried Jean, giving a spring in her excitement. "If it falls to
you, I'll fight you every step, and go to the law with you, and never
yield while I've breath!"
Peter looked at her with a tender admiration—but that ineffable way of
taking the girl's hot words as if they meant nothing, which not even
love itself can make palatable to a girl. "Well-a-well," he said gently,
"the one thing and the other they mean just about the same."
"But nothing of the kind," she cried, almost with a soft shout of
passion, "nothing of the kind! they mean——" here it suddenly struck
Jean quite irrelevantly, as he stood before her with a deprecating
smile, by every turn of his figure and change of his face recommending
himself to her, seeking to please her, asking nothing better than to
serve and help her,—suddenly and supremely that he was a bonnie lad,
that nobody had ever looked at her like that, nor spoken to her like
that before. She stopped and gasped and put out her hand to him, which
was as unexpected as any other of her movements. "Cousin Peter," she
cried, "there's my hand upon it; we'll be grand enemies! We'll be true
as auld Sir William's sword, that he keepit the Castle of Stirling with,
that hangs there upon the wall. We'll fight fair, and never say an ill
word one of the other. And there's my hand."
She expected nothing but a comrade's grasp; but young Pate of
Over-Kellie had the gracious manners of the old chivalry, without
knowing whence they came. He stooped low almost to his knee, and kissed
the hand held out to him—an unlooked-for homage which altogether
overwhelmed the rustic maiden, who was scarcely by her own nature a lady
of romance. And at that moment the heavy curtain was drawn, and Mr
Melville's head put out calling Peter. The sudden light of a delightful
smile shone over the minister's face. "Ah!" he said, with a soft laugh,
which was not of ridicule but content. It was enough, however, to send
Jean back to her window-seat, all one blush, and to make Peter draw
himself up almost to more than his stature, as very red and portentously
serious he followed, transported out of all his nervousness about Sir
Walter—into the presence of the old knight.
Sir Walter sat by the fire, which smouldered sullenly, as if it felt the
inappropriateness of its presence on a warm spring day, as the centre of
the scene. But the old Master of Kellie was cold, the blood ran slow in
his veins, and all the fires of living were as low in him as the dull
glow in the coals. The gown in which he was enveloped was lined with
fur, and wrapped closely round him; and his head was so sunk into its
soft collar that the effect of his upward look was as if a pair of eyes
alone looked over his raised shoulder at the young man who came in. But
there was life in the look, which contradicted every other sign of
diminished vitality. It seemed almost to strike at Peter like the flash
of a blade into the air. The steel-like light quivered, and then
suddenly the old man turned his head away. There was a pause, and both
of his visitors thought for a moment that the old knight had fallen
asleep or lost consciousness—till at last the minister spoke, half
alarmed. He touched with a finger the wide sleeve of Sir Walter's coat.
"Here is the young lad, Sir Walter. Come in bye, Pate—show
yourself—and be not blate. What, man! ye are here in what may be your
Peter took a step forward into the room, opposite to the light which
fell full upon him, his somewhat rustic air lost in the temporary
exaltation of his look; but Sir Walter had returned to his fire, and
looked at him no more. His voice came out of the fur collar of his gown,
as out of a cave. "Ay! the young lad, say you? And what is his will, and
his errand here?"
"Speak to him, man; speak to him!" said the minster, in an undertone.
"I have no purpose, Sir Walter," said Peter; "but that ye were thought
to send for me; and me—I was very willing to come, as your kinsman, and
to ask how you did."
"Ay!" said Sir Walter again, "as my kinsman! Blate! I see little sign
that he is blate. Let him speak for himself. There are plenty of loons
in Fife that will swear themselves my kinsmen, however they came by the
Peter was stung by this disdainful speech. "I am no loon," he said,
"minister, as you well know; and as for how I got the name, Sir Walter
he kens weel, seeing I am but his second cousin, when all is done, twice
"Ah, so! are you all that?" said the old knight: he raised his head, and
once more Peter felt himself struck as by a flame. But again the light
quivered, and Sir Walter swerved, and his head sank among his furs. Then
he added, averting his look, "What is your will of me, young man?"
"Nothing," said Peter. His heart swelled, a sudden sense of pity moved
him for the desolate old age before him—so lonely, so void of all the
charities and tenderness which ought to encircle the old. "And yet," he
said, a remorseful sense of all his own advantages over this solitary,
chilled, and suffering old man melting his spirit, "Sir Walter, if there
was any pleasure I could do you, for the sake of the drop's blood
between us, and because you have none of your own——"
"Eh! eh! what is that he says?—what is that he says?"
"Sir, I would fain, fain do you a pleasure, if that were possible,"
It was some time before the old knight spoke. "Gramercy for your
kindness, lad," he said; "I have plenty to do for me all I want. I seek
no service from the like of you."
"Yet it would be given out of a good heart," Peter said.
These words of manly kindness to the weak, given with an insistence of
which Peter, blate of nature as the minister had said—that is, proudly
shy of expressing emotion, as it is the drawback of his countrymen to
be—would not have believed himself capable, made a curious commotion in
the still air of that chamber, where all was stagnant, and life and
charity were seldom heard. Sir Walter put out a blanched hand with a
gesture to the minister, calling him forward, "Ye have tutored the lad
what to say."
"I would think shame," said Melville, "to try to tutor what's native to
a gentle spirit. And, Sir Walter, you are more understanding than to
believe what you say."
The old knight dropped his head again, and was silent once more. Then he
said, without raising his face, with his eyes fixed on the low red of
the fire, and a voice half buried in his fur collar, "Did I hear ye say
"His name is Peter——"
"Pate," repeated the old man, vaguely. "There was once another—but
keen, keen as a hawk, and gallant, and fine in every limb. Not like that
yeoman from the fields. Take him hence, take him hence! There is that in
the turn of his head that goes, that goes"—he made a pause, and gave
forth a long slow breath "to my hert!"
And again there was silence. Peter would have stolen away by natural
instinct, but did not dare to break the deep stillness by a movement,
and the minister stood doubtful, hesitating, afraid to shorten an
interview that might have important results, yet afraid at the same time
to injure the impression that had been made.
"Ay, Pate," Sir Walter said almost to himself, "Pate—like day to night,
like a prince to a churl—but just a turn of the head, a trick of the
voice. Eh! ye are still here? is it a service do ye think, young man, to
spy on the privacy of one that, kinsman or no kinsman, is the head of
your name?" he raised himself, putting his hand upon the table—"in
Fife," he added with a faint laugh, "in Fife—saving the rights of my
lord. Ay, my lord, that's the question. Well, sir! I thank ye for your
coming, and dismiss ye from further attendance. Master Melville, at your
leisure I will see you again."
The hall was vacant when Peter, with strange visions through his brain,
confused with his own good impulses and the less kind ones that came
hurrying after, stepped into it again. He did not know what he had
expected or hoped for, but there was disappointment and a little offence
in his mind. He was not sure if he had acquitted himself as a man in
this unusual trial or if he had failed. He was new to all these strange
and conflicting feelings. The old man in his chamber, the death in life
which Pate's animated youth had never seen before, and the young lady in
the hall, had given to him equally a great thrill and sensation of the
novel and unknown. Life seemed to have begun for him to-day.
In Sir Walter's chamber, after that interview, there were many comings
and goings. Sir John Low, as it was still the habit to call the curate,
came every day, for the knight, in the many fluctuations of his mind,
had at the last swayed towards the ritual and formulas to which he had
been accustomed in his youth, and there were consolations boldly
administered, though with precaution, by the curate which the minister,
although no further removed than the next parish, would have esteemed
sinful mummeries and offences to the truth. Mr Melville gave no
absolution, which the curate dispensed with confidence, soothing the
aged gentleman with rites by which his wavering mind was supported,
though he could not give above half his attention to them, but sat
turning over and over in his mind the one question that occupied him
even when the viaticum was put to his lips. Sir John came and went, and
a silent man from St Andrews, with a soberly clad attendant bearing a
bag full of papers and an inkhorn, also came and went, spending hours in
the Castle, and called in ever for a new discussion by the major-domo,
Neil Morison, who shared all the consultations, to which indeed his
master gave but the same distracted half attention which he gave to the
rites of the Church. The time had come to him when he could not fix his
mind to anything—whether it was those matters which were pressed upon
him as for his soul's weal, or those others which were in reality the
permanent subjects of his thoughts. Sir Walter, indeed, amid his dreams
and distractions, which broke everything with which he was occupied as
an image reflected in water is broken by every blowing breeze, was
conscious of many people coming and going, who were not seen of men.
While he pondered over the disposal of his property, his sons, to whom
it should have gone by course of nature, came and went fitfully, more
clearly realised at those moments when, in his malaise of mind and
body, he became impotent of all other thoughts, and turned towards them
as of old. Something had brought them back into the still air of that
death-chamber—something which no one knew of, which the old man himself
did not understand. It was the look of young Pate Oliphant, the turn of
his head, something in his voice, those subtle tokens of kin which come
and go, broken always, like that same reflection in water, not to be
traced, but thrilling for a moment now and then through every nerve.
That fugitive likeness had not inclined him towards Peter of
Over-Kellie. It had struck out rather a tone of wrath, of harsh
contrariety and opposition in his mind—with the impulse to push that
interloper out of his way who dared to remind him of Pate, his own Pate
of the other times. In his confusion of mind he did not remember how
that suggestion came—had he dared to speak of Pate, this stranger who
had no right? He forgot how it came. But Pate and the others had come
back: they were vaguely about him, always eluding him when he would have
appealed to them—present there he felt, by some secret understanding,
known only to himself and them, which if he betrayed it would harm them
all. And Sir John, quieting all the vague terrors in the old man's mind
in respect to death—terrors only half real, too, for nothing was very
real with Sir Walter—mingled other counsels, suggestions of another
name in which there perhaps was an escape from the confusion of his
The silent man from St Andrews disappeared one dim morning when the
world was all white, stifled in an easterly haar, after a sitting of an
hour with Sir Walter in his chamber—and that afternoon when the
minister of Carnbee appeared he was informed that all was nearly over,
and that the old knight, who had hung so long between life and death,
was in the very act of ending. The curtain was held back that Mr
Melville might enter; but as this was at the very moment when Sir John
was bending over the couch of the sufferer administering those rites
which were sacrilege to the preacher, Melville solemnly and indignantly
withdrew, and stood outside till all should be over. He stood against
the curtain with a stern expression on his face, his eyes half closed,
his lips sometimes moving. I fear he was angry that this mummery should
be permitted in a "Christian land," and thought many a harsh word of his
brother, even while he prayed fervently for the passing soul which these
rites were dismissing in peace. A little time after Sir John emerged,
solemn too, yet with something of triumph in his look. "He hath gone
forth well provided on his last journey," he said; "his end has been
peace." "If you call that peace," Melville could not keep from saying;
"I hope his end was also justice." "It was judgment," said the other
priest, walking back as if in a procession with his little vials: and
the old hall, so large, so empty, its great windows full of the whitened
mist, the shroud of the haar that covered all things, looked more
desolate, cold bare, and empty of life than words could say.
Before Sir Walter was carried to his rest in the family vault in Carnbee
kirkyard it was known all over Fife that Kellie Castle and estates had
been left by his will neither to his sister nor to the next of kin, but
to the head of the family, my Lord Oliphant, then in London with King
James, and not likely to put himself to much trouble in doing honour to
the funeral. It is true that he was the head of the family, and also
that there existed an additional link in the fact that Sir Walter had
married his sister. But the fief of Kellie was one which came not from
the parent house, but was acquired for his own hand by the original
holder, the founder of this branch, so that its bequest to the chief was
no reversion, but a free gift. Lord Oliphant was not rich; and poor as
had been the state kept by the old knight in the lingering end of his
days, his inheritance was not one to be despised. The knowledge made a
great sensation in the neighbourhood, where there had been many
speculations on the subject, the claims of Mistress Jean and of Pate
Oliphant having been largely discussed. By some of the neighbours it had
been believed that Sir Walter had no right to exclude the heir-at-law;
but this had been warmly disputed by others, who held that the death of
all the immediate members of his own family left the old knight a free
hand, and that, in the absence of any legal settlement, he had a right
to do what he liked with his own. His funeral brought together all the
gentry from that side of Fife, both gentle and simple indeed, of the
East Neuk, neighbours and tenants, a numerous company. And at this
ceremony the positions of the two clergymen were reversed. Sir John of
Pittenweem was not looked upon with very favourable eyes in the Kingdom,
and his return to the ancient ways, though it had to be winked at by
those who were aware that authority was no longer entirely on the side
of the Reformed Kirk, and that protection was now extended even to
something very like the odious Mass—was much against him in the opinion
of the multitude. That he had "played his cantrips" about the dying man
was whispered from one to another, and that he was a rank prelatist was
universally known. Maister Melville, that excellent and sound divine,
had now all the say.
There were other strange features in this funeral which were long
remembered. For one thing, there was nobody to conduct the mourning with
authority. Peter Oliphant stepped forward to follow the coffin, and no
one gainsaid his right to take the place of chief mourner; but he was
modest and a little backward in marshalling the others, notwithstanding
the support he received from several of the chief gentlemen present, who
acknowledged the title of the next of kin, even though it was known that
he was not the heir. But was he not the heir? would not natural right
prevail, though in opposition to an old man's testament, a doited old
man! These words were freely spoken even as the long procession set out
upon the heavy country road, winding dark and silent between the
hedgerows. Was he not a doited old man? Had not he taken, as somebody
had related, Pate Oliphant for his own son Pate, who, poor lad, had been
but a rover, and broken, folk said, his father's heart? And there were
some even who whispered that it was with the idea that Pate of
Over-Kellie was his own Pate, and to punish that ne'er-do-weel, that Sir
Walter in his dotage had left his lands away from the natural heir. This
discussion, however, was not all or even the most remarkable part of
what occurred. For at the cross-roads, where the way to Carnbee turned
off from the highway, a young gentleman, followed by three or four
retainers, came up almost at a gallop, with every sign of hard riding,
and in his travelling-dress, and made an effort to disturb the decorum
of the funeral by forcing his horse into the line and taking the place
next to the coffin where Pate walked leading the procession. This
incident caused a pause, and such an interruption of the solemnity as
threw the line of the mourners into confusion, and turned the
conventional stillness and whispered conversations of the funeral party
into something like a brawl. The new-comer proclaimed himself the
representative of Lord Oliphant, his son, sent to render the last
honours to his kinsman, and could only be prevented with the greatest
difficulty from taking his place forcibly at the head. This noisy
interruption, and the bad manners of the young gallant, who, when
prevented from taking the place of Pate, rode on himself and his
followers at either side of the coffin, breaking the quiet not only by
the excitement of their appearance but by the clangour of their ride,
and the breach of all those Scotch decorums which have always been so
rigid in respect to burial. Brawling at such a moment was not indeed
unheard of, any more than at any other moment, in the temper of the
times. But the depths of the peaceful country, where no such thing had
been thought of, and where my Lord Oliphant had neither friend nor
enemy, was displeasing to all. Nevertheless, perhaps, had it not been
for the steady backing of the minister and one or two of the elder men,
the position of Pate would have been a disagreeable one; for the
sympathies of the gentry were more with the Master of Oliphant than with
the humbler youth, whose blood they acknowledged, but whose breeding had
been that of a yeoman rather than of a landed gentleman. Pate himself,
however, proved his gentility by a bearing much more noble than that of
the intruder. He held his place with determination and without
flinching, yielding no step. And thus they carried old Sir Walter to his
On the return, however, Pate was less certain of his right and less
supported. It was the intruder then who had the upper hand. The elder
men might look coldly upon so irreverent an assertion of the position;
but the younger ones, who knew, or desired to know, the Master of
Oliphant, were glad to push forward, to claim his acquaintance, and to
accompany him back to Kellie Castle, where at least he had now the first
right to be. Pate felt himself left behind to the company of the tenants
and the smaller lairds, who, like himself, were rather patronised than
on an equal footing with the great proprietors. Mr Melville made an
effort to draw him into the quiet of the manse, which would have been
safer; but it was more natural that, indignant and injured as he felt
himself, he should prefer the sympathy of the others, who were full of
angry suggestion and advice. The young man had been profoundly
disappointed and cast down by Sir Walter's will. It was the destruction
of his brightest hopes: but it had not occurred to him that the question
was not closed, or that there might still be a chance of having justice
done him. Now the utterances of companions were no longer in whispers.
The doited auld man? Was he indeed a doited auld man? Pate thought of
the heavy look, the dreamy eye, the sudden kindling like a flame of Sir
Walter's brief words and moments of animation. He shook his head at
first, but afterwards his own mind took fire. It was galling to hear the
voices, already gay, of the others who clustered round young Oliphant,
and streamed after him, full of pleasure in the excitement of the
stranger's arrival, and also in their release from the gloomy ceremony:
he and his friends came behind, and different were their tones and their
"It is e'en like the impudence of thae minions of the Court," said one
of the neighbours, "that follow the English fashion, and despise their
"English fashion or no," said another, "right is right. Body and banes!
if it were me, I would have my lord before the Feifteen before I drew
"And let them prove that the old knight was fit to mak' a
"I'll tell ye just this, Over-Kellie," said one of the tenants, raising
an expository hand. "I had a word with Andrew Morison, that is the
cousin of Neil at the Castle, and the hired man of Maister Playfair of
St Andrews, the writer—him ye ken of. He had a look within yon closed
cha'mer, at his maister's call, to bring in the papers. And Andrew, he
says the auld man was like an auld ghaist—the colour o' the pairchment
spread out on the table, and his een dead in his heid."
"Which was nowise natural," said another. "I hae seen him mysel', when
there was question o' a feu or siclike, that took his pairt, and a
free-spoken man that would hae his argument and tak' his jest like
another. You'll no tell me it's the time to test, when a man's like
"If it had been a reasonable testament——"
"Or like a leal kinsman: now Sir Walter was aye considered a very
honourable person when he was in his own command."
"Pate Oliphant," said one of his own comrades, "I would fecht till my
last drop o' blood, before I wad yield Kellie Castle and your auld name
to a popinjay of an Englished lord."
"My auld name," said Pate, holding his head high, "is in no danger,
Beatoun, from any man."
"Oh, ay, ay," cried Beatoun, impatiently, "we all ken your pride. But
Oliphant of Over-Kellie is one thing and Oliphant of Kellie Castle is
another: and Lord! if it were but for this day's work——"
"Cause enough, and reason gude for feud or fray; but it's law and not
blood that's in the question," said another. "A bit of yellow pairchment
and a muckle false seal, and the name of a doited auld man!"
All these speeches and many more of the same kind rang in Pate's ear and
echoed through and through him as he rode home.
The house of Over-Kellie had not the dignity of the Castle; yet the
living-room into which Peter strayed with absent eyes, flinging himself
down on an oak bench beside the long table, was not entirely without
pretension. The windows were high in the walls; the fire was a
wide-spreading ingle, with some seats under its ruddy arch. A large
oaken table occupied the centre of the room; but it was kept with
greater care than was common, cleanly swept, with a pair of large silver
candlesticks on the high mantel-shelf, and some carving on the panels.
On one side of the fireplace a casement had been put in with a broad
sill, so that the women might have light for their work, and weapons
hung upon the walls by way of ornament—an old Andrea Ferrara, and some
pieces of plain armour such as were worn by squires and yeomen. The only
thing that made any stronger call upon the attention was the carving of
the mantelpiece, on which there was what seemed a rough copy of the
shield which occupied a similar position at Kellie Castle, with the
motto sprawling in rather ungainly letters, out of proportion with the
armorial bearings, À tout pourvoir, in a lengthened scroll by itself.
The Leddy, or, to compromise the matter, the Mistress of Over-Kellie,
which was a title equally befitting, whether she was by right Gudewife
or Leddy, came hurriedly out of the house to greet Pate, eager to hear
all that had happened, and what had specially befallen himself in this
crisis of his affairs. The Mistress had still hoped, or persuaded
herself she hoped, that the previous news about Sir Walter's will might
be untrue; and, as she followed her son up the few steps which led to
the great room, had overflowed in a string of questions, echoed by her
daughter Margaret, who followed close upon her steps. "Oh, Pate! what
did they say till ye? was the writer there? was there any person that
had authority? Pate, my man, did you lay his head in the grave?—for
sure, it was your right."
"Ay," said Peter, "I laid his head in the grave—muckle good as that did
me; for sure, as you say, it was my right."
"And is it true about the testament?" asked his sister.
"It canna be true—I will not believe it: it is but the ill-will of
Maister Playfair," said the Mistress; "they were ever against our
"Mother, mother, what has the writer to do with it? he cannot alter what
Sir Walter says. But maybe it is not so ill as we thought," said
Margaret, with devouring eyes on her brother's face.
"Let me be! let me be! I would like a stoup of your ale, mother. The
roads are very heavy both for man and beast."
"You are tired, my bonnie lad! Na, I'll not say another word," said the
Mistress, while Margaret flew down-stairs to get him the refreshment he
asked. "We might have thought if we had not been so taken up concerning
the news. Na, na, I will not hurry you, my Patie. Just take your time,
my bonnie lad!"
And she seated herself on the settle near the fire, and took up, not
without a little ostentation and with a sigh of excitement, her habitual
work. Margaret stood gazing on the other side of the table while he
drank, and their united force of curiosity and suspense moved him more
by repression than it had done by utterance.
"Well, then," said Pate, "hear this: my Lord Oliphant—that is the head
of our name—if I were ten times over the first of it in Fife, no mortal
man can contradict that."
A sob of opposition and protest came from the overcharged bosom of the
Mistress. Mortal man she was not, but woman; and therefore resistant to
every statement which diminished the importance of those she loved.
"The head of our name," repeated Pate, with a wave of his hand, in fine
acknowledgment of an allegiance which was not agreeable to him. "There
is therefore excuse, if excuse were wanted. It is no alienation; but
might, in the language of some persons, be conceived a giving back."
Pate was not without his share of schooling; he could be sententious,
which has always been a possibility to a Scotsman, when he chose.
"Given back!" said the quick Margaret, "but it never came from thence.
Look at the Buik, and look at the tree. It was no fief of Aberdalghie,
but won by our awin spear and our awin bow."
The women were wild with this outrageous pretence; but Pate, whose
heart, he thought, was broken, bent his head down on his hands and spoke
Afterwards he began to tell them what had happened, which they listened
to with cries of indignation and wrath. If it had been the Prince of
Scotland (or of Wales, as it was heard with indignation that the heir of
the crown was now to be called) who had tried to push forth Pate from
his lawful place, his mother and sister would have risked their loyalty
to resist it. But a young popinjay of a Master of Oliphant, as Robbie
Beatoun had justly said! And then by degrees they elicited from Pate all
he had heard about Sir Walter's incompetence, and how Sir John and the
Writer between them had swayed his mind, in spite of all that Maister
Melville, good friend and true, had been able to do.
"I am no for fechting," said the Mistress. "I've seen more of it in my
time than I would desire to see again; but to sustain a mortal wrong,
and not to say a word—I would raise the country afore I would abide
"I would rather sell my shoon off my feet, and my gown off my back!"
said Margaret, ever the first to see what was the real question.
"Whisht, mother, whisht! If it was to raise the country and haud the
Castle against whoever should oppose! Ah!" cried Pate, with a sigh,
"that was the way in the former days, when there was a king in
"And what for no?" cried the Mistress, with a gleam of war in her eyes;
but then she threw her apron over her head and began to cry. "The Lord
forgive me," she said; "to bid the lads to fecht, that are aye o'er
ready; and me that have seen the son brought in stiff and stark to his
ain mother's hearthstane! Oh no, my Patie, no! I am an ill woman to
think such thoughts."
"If that were the way of it!" cried Pate. "But the strong hand will not
serve us, mother; and he is the chief of our name. How could I rouse the
fisher-lads at St Monance, that are most Oliphants, against the head of
our own name?"
"There's not one of them but would follow you, Pate. It is you that are
the head of the name!"
"Whisht, Peggy!—to their death and the ruin of their sma' houses, and
starvation to their bairns—me that should rather feed and fend them!"
Peter half turned with a wave of his hand towards the motto rudely
carved upon the mantelpiece, "À tout pourvoir." He pronounced it as
his equal might do to-day, Aw toutt pourvoïre. "If ye ken nothing
else, you ken the meaning of that."
The women turned their eyes to it sadly, both answering, yet with
reluctance, to the spell. "Indeed it was an ill day it was pitten
there," said the Mistress, shaking her head. "Your father, honest
man—and blessed be his rest!—was just wud of these auld words. Never
was there a crown-piece to ware upon unthankful folk but yon was what he
said. Yon fishers in St Monance! He would point it to me that would have
held him back, and says he, 'Ye dinna understand, Marg'ret, but I
understand. The haill tot provided for: that's what it means—and the
honour of my name.' 'Laird, laird,' I aye said, 'you are far o'er muckle
taken up with the honour of your name.'"
"Not so," said Pate.
"Never so!" cried young Margaret, kindled and shining forth, her eyes
"keen with honour" in a glow of youth and brightness against the old
dull panelled wall.
"And that is just what cuts deepest," said the young man—"the law, and
the siller: it is either to abide the wrong, or to risk the pickle land
and the old rooftree, and your living, mother. Say that Peggy is safe in
Rob Beatoun's hands. But there is you and me, and them that hang upon
us. Me, I could go away to the wars in Germany, where there's ever
place for a Scot, like many a kinsman before me; but that would be no
pleasant issue for my mother."
"O Pate! Pate!" she cried, otherwise speechless, holding up her hands in
"And the plea at law," he went on. "The plea at law! there's something
that is as devouring as the grave. And it's that is the only way. Look,
mother! shall I take your living and mine and fling it to thae dogues? I
might get righted of my wrong; but if not we would be beggars, with a
wallet on our back and a staff in our hand. And what would come of the
name then, or the old o'erword of the name? My heart is just broken,"
cried Pate, with a wild movement of his arms. "Run the risk of
everything we yet possess—or else brook the wrong. How is a man to
decide? Whiles I think I would sooner perish than brook the wrong——"
"You must not do it, you must not do it!" cried the mother and daughter
in one breath.
"Or be counted among the dyvors at the horn," cried Pate. "The broken
men that have neither land nor dwelling to their name. The Lord preserve
me! but I am in a sore strait. Dishonour one way and ruin the t'other.
To be stripped of all, or to sit still like a coward and brook the wrong
and the shame."
At this moment the attention of the agitated group was suddenly
diverted. The sound of a horse's hoofs, urged in a headlong gallop along
the road, had been audible for a minute or two: and now there rang into
the air the sudden clash of the swinging gate, the bringing up of a
horse upon the paved yard, and the sound of some one flinging from the
saddle. "Where are they? in the big room?" some one cried: and the door
swinging open admitted Mistress Jean from the Castle, breathless with
haste, excitement, and agitation, her fair face glowing, her bright hair
waving, her riding-skirt splashed with the heavy mud of the road. "Oh
take me in!" she cried. "Oh save me, Leddy; I have no place to hide my
head, and Kellie has come into a stranger's hands."
"My bonnie bairn!" cried the Mistress, rising from her seat, "who has
dared to frichten you like this?"
"Oh, I'm safe, I'm safe," cried Mistress Jean, "now I'm here. But I
thought I would never win here——" She flung herself into the great
chair from which the Mistress had risen. "The hall is full of men," she
said, pushing back her hair from her forehead, "drinking wine and
holding muckle loud talk—and my brother, Sir Walter, that was lying
there yestreen, only laid in his grave this very day."
"If there was any man that dared," cried Peter, flaming up in response,
with a kindled eye and flashing face, "to lay a little finger upon
"On me!" cried Mistress Jean, in high disdain. "He would have brooked a
buffet in reply, and that I can answer for; but yonder young lord—if
he's the Maister of Oliphant, as they say, he does muckle harm to a good
name—he cried to me as a bonnie lass, the coward loon! and held wine to
me to drink the health of the new lord—me! that am Leddy by all rules
in my ain right."
"And so you are," cried Margaret; "I have ever said so—if nature and
law were the same."
The Mistress shook her head. "Not for a lass, not for a lass!" she said;
but her kind hand rested with a caressing touch upon the girl's
shoulder. "Think no more o't," she said, "my bonnie doo! you are safe
"But I must think more of it," cried Mistress Jean. "I am no doo, but of
a fighting race. He is riding off the morn, that painted pyet of a
Maister—maybe to-night. And by St Margaret!—which is a good oath, for
we bear her blood—I'll hold the auld house against him and all his! I
will do it! Cousin Pate, you're my chief vassal, for you're the next of
the name: you're my captain; up with you, when you hear what I say!
Raise every Oliphant in Fife. They are no maidens spinning at their
wheels, but buirdly men!"
Pate had started with a reddening cheek at the word vassal; but with
another glance at her, a smile of wonderful tenderness and brightness
came over his face, and he bowed his head with a look of mingled
reverence and protection beautiful to see. "That am I," he said, "and at
my Lady's bidding I'll——" He paused again. The old cloud, dissipated
for a moment, came over him. "But, Mistress Jean," he said, "bethink you
first what it will be. Clean rebellion against King and law."
"I have ever been a Queen's woman," cried Jean; "and that for your law!"
she cried, snapping her fingers, "that takes your native heritage out of
your hands, because, at God's will, not your own, you are a lass born
instead of a man!"
"Eh! and from the man also—the true heir—at the will of a doited auld
laird," cried the Mistress, forgetting the foremost grace of hospitality
in her indignation for her son.
"How dare you call my brother, Sir Walter, a doited——" cried Jean,
with flashing eyes. And then suddenly she calmed down. "It's maybe
true, since both him and me we are cheated of our rights. And are ye
then so slack, Peter Oliphant, that for the sake of King and law ye will
not stand to defend your own?"
"Lady Jean," said Pate, "I and mine are at your orders, and our right is
the same; but for the lads that would follow me, and rise at your
name—the fishers at St Monance, the small farmers intill Carnbee—every
man with his little gear that he has gathered out of the heavy
ploughland or the stormy sea—do ye mind that every one would be putten
to the horn, their sma' tenements levelled with the earth, and their
bairns scattered to the winds? For this house we are ready, though it
means want for my mother and banishment (at the best) for me. We were
not even without a thought of it, as they will tell you,—though I allow
for our own hand,—till that glowered at me in the face."
"What?" cried Jean, staring wildly, as if he had pointed to a ghost.
He pointed again in silence to the fireplace, where Jean's lighter eyes
caught the rough carving with a flutter of volatile observation. "Eh!"
she cried, "but it's ill done! But all this mocking, and I want a true
man. What are these auld words—if I kent what they meant—to you, Peter
Oliphant, and me?"
"They are just the o'erword of the race," he said, "that our fathers
have left to us—the best they could, and the most meaning in the least
buik. To provide for all, that's what it means—no to devote them to
death and ruin for our service. Mistress Jean, when you think well of
it, that will suffice, I trow, for you and me."
 Smallest space.
"I trow no such thing!" cried the girl; "for what should a man die for
if not for his laird's rights, or his leddy's, as the case may be? Is
there aucht more honourable, Pate?—a good cause and a good weapon, and
stout auld walls to hold against the world! Me, that am only a lass, the
more's the pity, it would put pith into the very arm of me!"
She held it out, pushing up her sleeve—a well-knit, vigorous, brown
arm, but so slim and soft that 'the tension of the general feeling was
relieved by the sudden laugh into which she herself was the first to
break. "But a pistol covers all that," she added afterwards. "I could
load and I could fire with any man."
"But no to shoot a neighbour dead," said Margaret, with a shiver,
holding the soft arm with two caressing hands, smoothing down the sleeve
over it with a tender touch. The thrill ran through the other, too,
though she tossed her fair head.
"I did not say a neighbour; but if it was yon fause gallant, with his
air like a lady's love, and his coarse cry to what he thought was a lass
of no account——Yon was no gentleman, Cousin Pate," she said, turning
to him with a glance which made Pate's face glow crimson, and filled his
heart with a sudden flood of pride and exhilaration. The appeal in
itself carried a sanction higher than that of any court of honour.
Jean's implied acknowledgment of her rustic cousin's highest claim could
not have animated him more had it come from the king upon his throne.
But the lamp burned late that night in the windows of Over-Kellie, and
many were the anxious consultations held under its roof. As the evening
went on, it was Pate and his mother whose voices were the most heard.
Jean fell, like Margaret, into the position of an eager listener,
submitting for the first time to the supremacy of strength and age,
leaving the decision to them, flashing only now and then, as Margaret
did, an eager light of suggestion upon every new discussion as it rose.
News were brought to Over-Kellie only in the afternoon of the next day
that the new heir, who had made so ungracious an entrance, was gone. It
was brought by Neil Morison, in the faded velvet doublet which was his
habit of state, attended by the varlet called Jaicque (Anglicè, Jack),
who was man enough to groom all the horses left in the Kellie
stables—to wit, a sober steed of all work, now ridden by Maister Neil,
and the skittish pony of Mistress Jean, who held in these old unused
stalls something like the same position which her mistress held in the
Castle. It was Jaicque who opened the gate, and "tirled at the pin" of
the house door, and held the stirrup while the major-domo got down from
his horse, which he did slowly and with difficulty. He had been Sir
Walter's faithful attendant, and long confinement to his master's
chamber had given to his scarcely more than middle age the aspect of an
old man. He gave the Mistress a bow which almost alarmed her, it was so
grand, a much finer bow than that with which he signified his sense of
the presence of his own young lady, whom it appeared he had come to
"I was weel aware," he said, "and it was the conviction of our Mistress
Marjory, who is my Lady Jean's auld caretaker, and kens her ways, that
our young damsel, Leddy Over-Kellie, would have taken shelter here."
"It was the natural place for her to come to,—my son Pate," said the
Mistress, "being her own blood relation and next of kin."
"Madam," said Neil, "we've mair confidence in yoursel' as a guardian
than in any man whatsomever. But we judge it quite safe for the young
leddy to come her ways hame."
"I will never cross the door," cried Jean, "as long as yon painted pyet,
yon fause lord, is there."
"The popinjay," said Margaret, in the background, proud of the name her
lover had given.
"He is nae lord," said Neil; "his father is the Lord Oliphant, and he is
but the Master, and may never be a lord at all for ought that we can
tell,—nor would it be, I'm thinking, ony great loss to the name, for a
wilder or a wantoner I have never seen. Anyway, Mistress Jean, he is
gane. And, so far as I hear, none of them will meddle us more till the
summer, and for the present you are better at hame than ony other
"Till the summer," Jean said, with sparkling eyes. She gave a glance at
Pate, who had just entered the room, and stood a little perplexed and
doubtful on the threshold in his farmer's dress, as he had hastened from
the fields on hearing of this emissary from the Castle. For aught he
knew, it might have been some scornful message from the interloper which
Neil brought; and he stood, his ruddy face clouded with unusual
sternness, expectant and somewhat defiant. "Cousin Pate," cried Jean,
over the head of the old servant, "yon popinjay is gone, and they are
not coming back till the summer: the summer, and there's three months to
that. Oh, if ye were my real captain, and like our forebears of the
past! Neil, did you ever hear tell that Kellie Castle had held out
against a mortal foe?"
"And where is the mortal foe, my young leddy? Sir Walter, my honoured
master, had neither feud nor fray with any man—that is," said Neil,
with caution, "not for many a year."
"Eh! may the green turf lie soft upon him," said the Mistress; "he was
an auld, auld man."
"No so old as ye think—if it were not for care and sorrow. I have seen
a stour about the Castle, and swords drawn, if that is what you mean,
my Lady Jean. There are few castles in Scotland, nor even ha'-houses,"
said Neil, "that could say less."
"Eh, and that is true!" said the Mistress; "but the present times are
more quiet, the Lord be thanked!"
"The most of the fiery blood is away," said the old man. "Your own son
now, young Over-Kellie, there, where he stands, he has his farms and his
fields to think of, and never fashes his thoom about feats of arms."
Pate, still lingering at the door, grew darkly red, and came forward
with a gloomy brow. "I have my father's sword, Maister Neil," he said,
"ready for any man that doubts my spirit."
"Ay, ay, I ken that," said the major-domo. "The father's sword, maist
likely rusted to its scabbard, and as heavy as a plough pettle. But the
young gallants have blades that flash out at a moment's notice, as free
as breath, though it's the stoppage of breath they're bent upon." The
old servitor laughed, a low laugh, like the creaking of a door, at his
own wit. But it was at Pate's expense, and the young man felt it to the
bottom of his heart.
"Yesterday was no day for a brawl," he said; "but let him cross my gait
again, and he will learn if there is rust or not on a man's sword."
"I lovena the lad," said Neil. "He has nae respect either for a young
lass nor an auld man. But he's no sweart with his blade, and he'll stand
up to you were you Wallace wight."
It is hard upon a young man to be driven to protestations of what he
would do if the occasion came, and Neil's tone was bitter to Pate, in
the uneasy pride of his position, thus waved aside more or less
offensively not only by the others, but by the very servants of the
others, conscious of all the external differences between the place he
claimed and that to which, notwithstanding his claims of blood, he had
been barn. Might ill be the fate of that Oliphant who was first led away
by love of a fair face, and married a farmer's daughter, and settled
down on a yeoman's land! And yet that Oliphant was the source of all his
claims, the honour of his house, and a far better man than if, like any
swashbuckler, the laird's younger son of Kellie had died in a foolish
fray, and left behind him neither heir nor land.
"Cousin Pate," cried Jean, "mind that it is you I look to. I will not
say another word; but the walls, they are old and they are strong, and
if the men are not stout, the knaves belie their name: and as for your
auld motto, I just cast it in your teeth. Provide, then, an' ye are so
fond of it! and let it be for your lady, as is your bounden duty, and
you the next kinsman." She took up the edge of her riding-cape, which
Margaret with affectionate devotion had been arranging on her
shoulders—at the spot where the gold lace with which it was trimmed was
frayed and broken—and held it up to him. "Next kinsman, and only
friend," she said, putting her hand into his with a gleam of moisture in
her eyes that made them twice as bright as usual: and they were bright
enough at all times, as bright as stars to Pate's thought. They were not
the Oliphant eyes, which in their kind were not to be despised, brown,
glowing, and liquid, full of laughter and light: but blue, with such a
sparkle in them as the sapphire has, and shooting out rays like
arrows—that kind of blue fire which has something in it more keen than
the brown, piercing and cutting like a dart. It softened with the last
words, and the water swam in the darkness of the blue.
Pate said little for the rest of the day to the inquisitive and anxious
women of his house; but he pondered long as he strode about the fields
in the afternoon, and later in the night, when the labourers had gone to
their houses, to the scattered clump of lowly cottages that sheltered
beyond the farm-buildings, and all the members of the family within the
house, bound to be early astir in the morning, had gone to rest. There
had been talk enough and consultation. But though the Mistress and
Margaret had not been able to refrain from carrying on the arguments of
last night between themselves, there was a consciousness even in their
minds that it was he alone who had to decide. And they had withdrawn to
their beds, a little reluctant, yet constrained by necessity and a sense
of duty, to leave him to himself. It was a relief to him when they were
gone, and yet it troubled him to feel himself left under the flickering
light of the cruse in the stillness of the house to face this problem
which was his, and not another's. He had been more or less of an easy
mind during all his youth, disturbed from time to time by his gentle
blood and his possibilities, which from shadows, that they had been at
first, had grown into present and real things, as old Sir Walter's
family had failed one by one, and it had become more and more apparent
that it was he, and only he, who was the heir. The lass who was the last
of the house of Kellie had not seemed of much importance to Pate's
eyes,—not more than she had been to old Sir Walter, who was her
brother, though he might almost have been her grandfather, and to whom
she was an accident, troublesome, and sometimes exasperating to think
of, and therefore pushed aside and not considered at all. Neither did
Pate think of her. He had been troubled at times by the consciousness
that he had not been bred so well as he was born—that he had about him
that something of the fields and the plough which made him different
from the young gallants, the flash of whose ready rapiers from the
scabbard was, as Neil had said, with wise and wounding justice, unlike
the deliberate drawing of the sword which perhaps had rusted a little in
its sheath. And the thought of this, and such incidents as had occurred
yesterday, when the train of gentlemen who, though they resented his
intrusion, and supported Pate in his rights, still crowded about the
Master of Oliphant, and left his kinsman to such consolation as the
humbler yeomen could bestow,—had irritated and vexed him. It seemed to
Pate a humiliation, not only that they should withdraw, but that he
himself should care.
But all these thoughts had gone like last year's snow, in a new dilemma
very differently felt. That he should not after all be the next in
succession, the just heir; that there should be some one between him and
Kellie,—to have discovered this, had he ever anticipated or dreamt of
such a possibility, would have been in all his previous thoughts a sort
of deathblow. But somehow that dread discovery did not hurt him at all.
No; nor that he should be recognised as the first vassal, the loyal
servant of this intruder, who shut him out of his lawful inheritance. He
had tried for a moment to be angry, even to be wounded, but he had not
succeeded. It had given him a shock; but the shock had been such as the
discovery of a new inheritance, a something better even than Kellie,
might have given. Who was it, this true heir, for whom he was called
upon to give up the claim which had been dear as his life? who commanded
him imperiously as the first vassal, the nearest kinsman, servant, and
officer. It would have been incredible to him that he should have
accepted such a position; that he should have met the call, not with
defiance, rage, denial, but with a consent and acquiescence which
astonished himself; which filled him with generous emotion, with a kind
of pleasure, with a soft humorous sense of something beyond reason in
it, foolish, noble, more exquisite than any emotion he had ever felt
before. To secure the home of his fathers, the hope of his life, the
right most dear to him—for Jean! not for himself. It brought the
moisture into his eyes, a dew of pain, yet warm with every sweetness. He
turned round on the heavy wooden stool, beside the big table, on which
he sat, and fixed his eyes on the words scrabbled in stone upon the
chimney, and still more misshapen and irregular in that medium through
which he looked at them. "À tovt povrvoir." What meaning had been in
these words! He had seen himself the master of his father's house, the
head of his name, the providence of his race. Not an Oliphant in St
Monance, not a fisher on the coast, that would not be the better for
him, that would not rejoice to think that the auld blood had been
revived in the new master, and every ancient tradition of kindness from
lord to vassal made true. It was no ignoble hope that had been in the
young man's heart. No one had ever called old Sir Walter an ill laird;
but he had grown old, indifferent, rapt in the shadows of his old age,
no longer capable of thought or care for those around him. Whereas Pate
was young, full of sympathy, full of vigour, knowing every man and
caring for every house. To cry "an Oliphant!" in a street brawl, or take
the crown of the causeway from any passer-by, had not been in his
thoughts; but to be the defence of his own folk, the champion of Fife,
one of the supporters of the common weal!
Pate rose up with a start, pricked by his thoughts, and went to the
fireplace—leaning his head upon the rude carving, and gazing down at
the smouldering red on the hearth. Would she be that? A bit of a lass,
not much more than a child, without knowledge; also a creature of
caprice, moved not, like himself, by long-held, long-pondered
resolution, but by every wind that blew, by sudden impulses, perhaps
unwise, by the council of the moment, born to-day and gone to-morrow. He
pressed his brow upon the stone till the carving was printed upon it, as
it had been before on his heart. Who could tell what mood would sway
her, what strength she would have, what instruction would commend itself
to her—what (and perhaps this was the great question of all)—what
husband she would marry? But that question, which suddenly roused the
blood in every vein, so that Pate felt a sudden flush go over him from
head to foot,—that question had to be crushed at once, having nothing
to do with the matter. That was not his affair. No such solutions from
fairyland were to be brought into the consideration of a man's duty. The
women might dwell upon them. They might so, if they would, set injustice
right, and contradict the laws of nature at their pleasure; but such
considerations were not for him. The question was not one of fancy or of
chance, but of what he, a strong man and a steadfast, taking gravely
into consideration every side of the subject, was to do: and this was
what he had to settle now.
"My friend Pate," said Sir John Low, "I cannot think that you have so
little sense—a young man of havins, as I have ever kent you—as to
oppose my Lord Oliphant in his lawfu' rights. The estate has been gifted
to him fully and fairly by him that had the power. And you have but the
drap's blood. We are not denying your blood-right. You are the next of
kin; but if Sir Walter thought it the best thing to put back the auld
lands under the hand of the undoubted head of the house——"
"It is just that that will have to be tried," said Pate.
"Man," cried Sir John, "what are you but a distant kinsman after all?
And my lord also is a kinsman—maybe farder off in degree, but assured
in line as the fountainhead to the stream."
"Mess John," said Pate, "we will leave counting the degrees. There is
one that needs no counting, being the child of the same father, and more
near in kin than I am, as I frankly allow." Here Pate lifted his bonnet
from his head with a certain solemnity. "That she is a maid and not a
man is naught; for the maid has succeeded to the father as long as there
has been law in Scotland. And I have even heard say——"
"Mistress Jean!" cried the curate, elevating his eyebrows; and he smote
Pate on the back a jovial blow, all unlike his lean form and the gleam
in his eyes. "Ha, my bonnie lad! you are none so simple for a country
clown. You would strengthen one ill claim with another, and win the
knight's spurs by the help of the distaff! Whiles it is not a bad plan."
That Pate's cheek should have flamed at this filled him with a sense of
humiliation; but it was anger and not shame that brought the red, which
flushed fiercely over his brow and lent a red light to his hazel eyes.
"The lady's claim is firm as Carnbee Law," he said. "I yield to it, with
no liking, nor even surety of well-doing. She may carry the auld castle
that is the home of my fathers into a stranger name—the whilk would be
the grief of my life. I yield to her, because I cannot in justice
withstand. She claims me as her defender, which doubtless I am, being
the first man—in Fife—of my name."
Sir John, who had been staring at him open-mouthed, here burst into a
laugh. "And you tell me that's your reason!" he cried, in a derisive
"You, or any man," said Pate, calmly. "And I would do the same," he
added with a smile, turning upon the half-priest, who followed
stealthily, as far as he dared, the habits of the old faith, sure of
indulgence in the unsettled state of affairs—"I would do the same if I
were one of your lambs, that tell you all in your ear ahint the
"It would be well for you, my lad, if you did the same," said the
curate, reddening in his turn; "and ye should hear from me that when you
lippen to a young lass you are a fool for your pains."
"What!" said Pate, "is that the counsel you give, Sir John? To leave the
orphan lass undefended, and bow the head to the silken lord? That is not
the lear that has been learned to me."
"Silence, yeoman!" cried the angry curate. "Are you one to teach your
betters, let alone your priest?"
"Ay," said Pate, "or any honest man; and I acknowledge no priest but
only him that teaches the Word—which never yet bade to pass over the
weak, even when it is to your own hurt, as this is to mine."
"Here's one coming that will give you grand reason for every fule-deed
you like to do," cried Sir John—"ay, and tie you up safe and fast to
the lass that ye think has such a grand tocher. But bide awhile, bide
awhile, Pate the pious. Succouring orphans is a fine thing when your own
rights are not so clear as ye thought; but when you find a useless wife
on your hands, and all the cows to milk, and the byres to clean——"
"You have an ill tongue, if you were ten times a priest!" cried Pate,
with a clouded brow.
But the controversy was stopped by Master Melville, who came up hastily,
quickening his usually sober steps at the sound of Pate's voice raised
above its usual tone, and the laughing, scornful attitude of Sir John.
"Your look is not peaceful, Peter," he said, "nor your eye content."
"Did you expect to find me content, Maister Melville," said Pate, "with
my rights taken up by others, and myself scorned before my neighbours? I
would then be a man not like other men."
"The Lord of Over-Kellie," said Sir John, "was, by my faith, near upon
charging me with a cartel of war to that other nobleman the Lord
Oliphant; but that I am a man of peace and carry no gage."
"You might moderate your jesting, Brother Low," said Melville, "and so
show yourself a man of peace. This is not the time, Peter, to bandy
words, with whosoever it may be. You have your duty to do for your
kindred and your name."
"It is what I am ready to do at all times," cried Pate, hastily, eager
to find in the minister's face the counsel already established in his
"We will say good morrow, first," said Melville, "to this reverend
brother. It is an evil thing to be overly much concerned with the
affairs of this world, Maister Low. Here are you and me, both led away
by these heathenish disputes, that should have been in our quiet studies
pondering our sermons, and the Lord's Day coming on——"
"I am no man for long sermons," said Sir John, "nor am I liked the less
on that account, so far as I can see."
"Well, sermons are my trade," said Melville, passing his
brother-clergyman with a bow. He put his arm in Pate's, and led the
young man with him, gently forcing his steps. "All he means," said the
minister, holding Pate's arm tight and leading him on, "is to make you
talk and give forth your foam and nonsense, the whilk he will turn into
solid mischief. I hope I am no uncharitable," he added, devoutly; "but
come you, Patie, my man, and talk out your soul: you are safer with me
than with him."
"No, minister," said Pate, "I have no need for blethering, as you seem
to think: my mind is steady and made up. The young lady is more wronged
than I am. She is her father's just heir. She claims me as her first
servant, and I allow the claim. I am the man nearest to her. I am
fechting, and I will fecht, to the death, for her right and not mine."
"Pate! lad!" said the minister; his voice faltered, and even his step
for the moment. Then he cried, "No wonder he did not understand!"
But Pate neither comprehended nor desired to comprehend the meaning of
this reply. He was entirely preoccupied with his own thoughts. "That is
my solemn determination," he said. "I have had my fancies; but then I
kent nothing of her, nor of her just rights. I will get them for her if
I can, minister: it is my first duty, as the next of the name."
"She is but a lassie," said the minister, "and a wild one; no training,
no mother, grown up just like a blade o' grass on the lee. There is no
telling what the like of her may do. She will take your very heart out
of your life, and never ken what a gift it is. She may not even thank
you. She may think it's only her right and your duty."
"And what is it else?" said Pate. "You are all the professor I ever
had: if my lear is poor it is your blame. I think I have heard from your
very mouth that if a man does not stand for his ain, specially for them
of his own house——"
"Oh, laddie, do not tackle me out of my own mouth!" cried the minister,
peevishly; "many a foolish thing I've said. Meantime, you must mind that
when the Apostle said yon, he was thinking nought of a man's house,
according to your meaning of the word. Little recked that holy man of
the Oliphants or any Scots name, with their pride and their clanships.
What he meant was the man's wife and his bairns—and no a distant cousin
twenty times removed."
"No more than three times, minister," said Pate; "make me not out more
loon than laird. And as she's her father's daughter, and he so old a
man, she is of the elder generation, my father's second cousin, and no
more than second cousin once removed to me. And what could be nearer my
own house than that? Nay, the holy man, as you say—I wot not how to
call him—would e'en have been of my mind."
"Paul he was, and not always favourable to Peter," said Melville,
shaking his head, yet with a tremulous smile on his face. "Pate, I will
ask you but one thing. Is it for the hope of this maiden's love that you
take up her forlorn cause?"
"Maister Melville," said Pate, "I ken not if I love her; but reason none
have I to think that she has ever wared a thought on me. There is clear
in my mind the danger, and mostly the certainty, that she will mate with
some stranger and carry the auld house into another name,—the whilk
would be bitter to me—more bitter than words can say."
"If it is so," said the minister, "then the Lord bless you, my lad,
Pate. Laird or no laird, you are a true man, and that's better than rank
or high degree."
"You mind, minister," said Pate, with a smile, "Aw toutt
pourvoïre—you were the first to learn me what its meaning was."
"I was ever a fool," said Melville, "and ever will be! It is not that
kind of lesson that makes a man win lairdship and land."
"But it is maybe the best consolation when he has to bide without them,"
They had come in their walk within sight of Kellie Castle, which stood
square and strong, rising with its turrets to the sky from amid the
peaceful fields, as it still stands undismayed by all the progress of
the centuries. It is a little grim and grey in the darkness of its stone
walls nowadays, all Scotland having been seized since then with that
false reserve which discredits colour; but in these days, no doubt, much
of the rough mass, especially in its out-buildings, must have shone in
white or yellow, the old tints, weather-stained and glorious, which the
country then loved. Pate looked towards that home of his fathers,
lifting once more the bonnet from his brow. It had been a kind of idol
to him throughout his youth, his every hope had centred in it; it had
been his ambition, the desire of his heart—not an ignoble one. He
looked upon it now with a smile full of sorrow and disappointment, and a
thought, had he known it, higher than any other hope that had ever
before centred upon Kellie. If it were won for her, then would it be
"Fare thee weel, auld Kellie," he said with a half laugh to hide that
tremor; "thou wilt never be to me or mine; and I have glowered at thee,
and longed for thee all my life long: which maybe you will say,
minister, is just a judgment on me for a covetous thought."
"You will never hear such a word from me, Pate, my man," said the
minister. "I have more opinion, if I dare to say it, of your good Lord
He, too, lifted his hat in reverence as he spoke, and after a moment
both turned away.
"After all," said Master Melville, "this is not the subject on which I
sought you in haste, my lad, Pate. I hear that yonder wild lassie, hot
with her race and her youth, is for defending the auld Castle by force
of arms. She will call out every Oliphant in the Kingdom of Fife, you
the captain: she will fill the stores with provender, and furbish up the
auld armour, and hold the place against lord and loon. It's over the
whole countryside already, and the lads at St Monance all alow. There
needs but a spark to fall, and there will be a blaze to light up Fife.
Pate, do you think what that would be? Two whole parishes put to the
horn. The men, that are the breadwinners, in prison or hounded out of
the land. The women helpless with their bairns; the boats all useless on
the shore, the plough in the furrow. Ever have I learned you, Pate
Oliphant, that a man's first thought should be for them about him that
are in want of good guiding and help to do well. You cannot stand
against the law. You cannot stand against the chief of your name, that
has riches and troopers at his command (though well I wot he is a
wastrel, and his son after him). Mistress Jean, she is but a bairn. The
right and the wrong have gone to her head, and of the consequences she
takes no thought. Vain to, speak till her of ruined houses and men
slain or banished. She just thinks of victory and the three silver
crescents waving over Kellie, and the tyrant driven away. As if she was
a queen fighting for her crown—and, waes me! we have well known in this
generation what comes of that."
Pate had walked on by the minister's side, silent, his head bowed,
listening. He looked up hastily, interrupting—
"A princess; but with more right than the law, and more innocence than
that gowan-flower. There is no similitude."
"Nor am I making any comparisons, Pate Oliphant," said the minister with
a smile; "but what is all that," he cried, as a sound as of shouting and
tumult came to them over the cliffs on the breeze which is always fresh
(or salt as the case may be) blowing off the Firth over the Fife braes.
They had walked far in their talk, and were now near the old village of
St Monance, with its old kirk dating from the days of King David, that
"sore sanct for the crown." The sound evidently came from that quarter,
and both the men quickened their steps accordingly. The village
consisted then, as now, of a straggling line of red and moss-grown
cottages, parallel—if any parallel could be to a coast cut up in
zigzags by the line of rocks—with the margin of the sea. It was
entirely a fisher village, the boats drawn up high in the rocky openings
of the beach, almost on a level with the houses, and nets spread
everywhere, drying, or mending, or being baited at every point. But in
the centre of the "toun," where the space between the houses and the sea
was a little wider, was a little crowd of fishermen, their dark figures
lighted up by a touch of brighter colour in a kirtle or petticoat, and
the white specks of the mutches which every decent woman wore. They were
all circling round a gayer figure in their midst, Mistress Jean to wit,
uplifted on her pony, with her hair flowing under her riding-cap, the
highest light in the picture, as her delicate face was, among all the
ruddy, weather-beaten, glowing countenances round. Jean had, it was
evident, been making something like an oration to her assembled vassals,
and her eyes shining, her hair waving, her arm in the air, had kindled
the fishers to enthusiasm. "We are Oliphants all," she was saying as the
minister and Pate came up, "every one kin, far off or near, and hey for
the silver crescents and bonnie Kellie Castle, that never owned master
since the days of Bruce but——" she stopped with the pause of natural
eloquence as her kinsman pushed into the crowd: then waving her whip,
cried with all the force of her young voice, and a daring which brought
the blood to her cheek, "Pate Oliphant's line, and mine."
Never was a touch more effective. As he pushed forward, scarcely hearing
what she said, there rose a general shout, "Pate Oliphant and the bonny
Leddy; Leddy Jean and the kind house o' Kellie! We're for them and nae
land-loupers. The Bruce's blood and the auld name!"
"Mistress Jean," said Pate, "what do you here? This is no court of law,
to judge between you and him that, right or wrong, is no land-louper,
but the head of our name."
"Land-louper yourself, Pate Oliphant!" cried Jean, in high indignation.
"Let go my bridle! If you will not tell the lads, what is left to me but
to do it? and you, if you will not speak, be silent, sir! for though I
do you all honour, and name you with myself, you are but my vassal like
the rest. And that you ken!"
Pate's bonnet was in his hand, and he bowed low; but he held her bridle
without flinching, though pony and rider both rebelled. "It is not safe
for a spirity creature like this," he said, "the roaring of those loons
so near her lug. Silence, lads! The lady understands, without more of
your rowting, that you're all leal, and her friends."
The men had slunk a step backward in dismay at what seemed to them a
family quarrel. They brightened again, and answered, "Ay, that are we!"
"To our last drap o' blood!" "And yours too, Maister Pate!"—with a
subdued clamour, daunted by his look, for he was not a man to trifle
with, as they knew.
"My bonny bairn," Mr Melville was saying at the other side, "if you will
curb your pony to an auld man's pace, I would fain go with you. There's
danger baith for man and beast here."
"And what do I care for danger?" cried Jean; "it's just half the
pleasure. Bid Pate Oliphant let go my bridle. Do you think, me that am
'most in arms for my rights, I will be guided by him?" She touched the
excited pony with her whip, which made a bound, scattering the
fisher-folk. But not Pate, who, setting his teeth, and digging his heels
into the earth, held her with a grasp of iron. Jean had the whip raised
again, with the intention, it seemed, this time, of striking him, when
the minister called out to her—
"Slip down, lassie! the little beast is wild wud; she'll dash you
against the rocks; she'll have your brains out: slip down, slip down,
and you'll take little harm."
"Leddy, ye canna haud her a minute longer," cried a fisher—one rushing
on each side to pluck her from her saddle. But the girl blazed over
them, her hair waving in their faces, her blue eyes darting fire.
"Away!" she cried. "Away! Hold off! She may master you and me, but
she'll not master Pate!"
There ensued after this a very dark time in the life of Peter Oliphant
of Over-Kellie. When Jean found that not she, any more than the pony,
could master Pate, she withdrew altogether her favour and friendship
from him. Shut up within the old house, which Lord Oliphant after that
one demonstration of taking possession left unvisited, she passed the
lingering spring and summer, often seen about the country roads on her
pony, but keeping up a seclusion within, quite uncongenial to her
temper, and which even Margaret from Over-Kellie was not allowed to
break. The suit at law, brought before the courts by her kinsman and
next friend on her behalf as a minor,—that Sir Walter's will might be
set aside as barred by her right of succession, and also as procured by
undue influence, when in his age and weakness he was no longer able
fully to exercise his faculties,—excited for a moment her hottest
wrath. She burst forth upon Maister Melville, who gave her the
information, with blazing artillery of looks and words, of which he
avowed that could the first have slain him he would now have been a lost
man. But the mild divine, being full of experience and observation,
believed he saw behind all this fury a certain exultation. "How daured
he, after denying me, and contradicting me, and leaving me here to eat
my heart, while he went off to his plough, the dastard, no to answer his
lady's call! And I doubt not he's laying his furrows and sowing his
grain as if there was no such person as Jean Oliphant shut up in
Kellie," the girl cried, glowing with rage and curiosity and eagerness.
"You can tell him that it's he that is the land-louper, and no credit to
his gentle blood, to turn his back on the auld house and upon me."
"No back of his has been turned on any lawful risk," said the minister;
"on certain destruction no brave man will run if he is other than a
fool. Ken you what your kinsman is doing, Mistress Jean? He is risking
his whole living, with the chance of loss that will banish him the
country—and that not for himself, as once he thought, but for you."
"Banish him the country!" said Jean, with blanched lips.
"Ay, my little maiden, you ken not either the risk or the pain. You
think it is but to out with the flag, and load the arquebus, and the
right will prevail; whereas it would be death to many a bonny lad, and
destruction to many an honest house, and no hope to do more."
"All that," she cried, with an impatient wave of her hand, "is over and
gone, since he refused and would not stand by me, nor be my captain as I
bade him; but to gang to the law is one thing and be banished the
country is another. And who would banish him the country for standing by
his—next friend? if that is what you call it," she added, in a subdued
The minister smiled within himself to see how swiftly she had accepted
the position, notwithstanding her first revolt; but he proceeded to
explain to her that the law cost much siller, and Peter had little but
his land and his old house; and if the plea lingered long—as it might
well do—till all his money was spent, there would be nothing for him
when he had secured a living for his mother but to quit Scotland, either
for the foreign wars, like so many of the Scots, or to sail away to one
of the New-found-lands over the seas, where folk said there were estates
for the asking, a fine caller climate, none of your tropiques, a new
Scotland cold but fair. And then Jean wept, and declared that she would
not have it, that no man should risk life or land for her cause: and
afterwards dried her eyes and waved her golden locks, and declared that
it was even like him, just like what was to be looked for from Pate, and
showed that he was the maist fulish lad in all the land, as she had
always said. But even after this she would not come forth nor make
friends, though Margaret, when next she came to the Castle gate, was
brought up to the hall, and many kisses passed between the girls, and
still more kind words.
The cause was heard, by good fortune, with less delay than was feared,
and it was thought at first with much prospect of success. Pate himself,
being anxious, made more than one visit to Edinburgh, which indeed was a
journey in those days.
But, alas! there was no longer any occasion for hope, when one day in
July when the sun was at its hottest, and the genial earth warm through
and through, and the corn turning red against the blue of the sea, as I
saw it but the other year, glowing as if it would take light and
flame—Pate Oliphant, just come back, and weary with the journey, stood
hard by his own hall-door, leaning upon the wall, his bonnet low on his
brow, and his heart full of trouble. He had flung out of the big room
from his mother's questions and his sister's outcries of sympathy and
distress, feeling that he could not bear even the sympathy, much less
the questions: how was this, and how was that? when all he could tell or
think of was just that the cause was lost. Oh, easy enough to see how it
was, if they would but think, instead of asking questions! My Lord
Oliphant had friends enow; he was a Lord of King James's Court; he was
sib to all the nobles, and even to one of those carles on the judges'
bench, with their muckle wigs and their weariful tongues. A losing
litigant is prone to be doubtful of the impartiality of the law. Pate
Oliphant could not but feel that, had he been Oliphant of Kellie (as he
ought to have been), any suit of his would have been more safe to end as
He was standing there, idly lashing the air with the riding-switch that
was still in his hand, his bonnet low on his brow, and his heart in his
bosom, when there came suddenly into the silence of the afternoon a
sound of horse's hoofs at the gallop on the rough road that led to the
house. Margaret, who had come out after her brother, cried out with a
start, "Hear till her! It is Jean's powney, the little wild beast—wild
like her mistress. It's our Leddy Jean."
"Leddy, puir lassie!" cried the Mistress; "no more Leddy, if a' be true,
Margaret, than you or me."
"And even so worthy of the more respect," cried Pate, rousing from his
despair. There was no mistaking the breakneck gallop, which seemed to
join the two, pony and girl, in one personality. Jean's one idea now,
clearly told by every flying beat of the hoofs upon the road, was a
fiery desire to get there, to fling herself upon the protection or
sympathy of her friends. Pate flung his bonnet on the ground, and
hastened to throw open the gate, receiving her with uncovered head and
reverential gesture, as if she had been a queen. But Mistress Jean, in
hot haste, too impetuous to pause, flashed past him like a gleam of
sudden light—her golden locks flying, her complexion bright with haste
and excitement. She drew up before the door, and flung herself from the
pony's back without waiting for any aid. "They have come, they have
come!" she cried, with only breath enough to say the words. She was so
keen, however, to tell her story, that the immediate painful meaning of
it was lost in eagerness. "Here am I, flung upon you like a stone, fired
out upon you like a bullet out of a gun," she cried, with a laugh of
excitement. "O Pate Oliphant! if ye would but have done it, you and me
would have been in harness this day, and the silver crescents flying
out-owre the grey wall! for they are come—they are come!"
"The silver crescents," said Pate, "are their cognisance as well as
yours and mine: and they have won the day."
"Listen to me," cried Jean, shaking her half-curled locks about her
ears, her eyes blazing, her countenance, in her excitement, undismayed.
"I was sitting quiet in the great window, thinking no harm, when in a
moment there arose sic a tumult as if a haill army had broken in; and
before I could say more than a word to old Marjory, there they were,
bursting up ilka stair, some from the west tower, some from the south,
with a clatter of rapiers by their side, and spurs on their heels—the
villain sound," she cried, "and them no better than reivers upon a poor
maiden—but notwithstanding," she added, pausing with a sigh, "a bonnie
noise!" She cast a sudden glance at Pate, standing there in the dust of
his journey, the sun shining on his bared head. He had no swingeing
rapier, but a whinger in his belt and a spur on his heel, for use and
not for show, a subdued figure, not like the gallants in their bravery.
He felt this glance to the bottom of his heart, divining something of
it, but not Jean's instant second thought, that not one of them, fine as
they might be, was such a bonnie lad!
"I am telling ye," cried Jean, renewing her tale with a flush upon her
cheeks which came from her own consciousness of that thought, "that they
all burst in in a moment, men's voices, and the jingling and the
clattering of them, that filled the hall. It is well for me that I never
stop to think, as the Mistress says; for if I had stoppit, or thought,
or lingered a moment, I would have been in their hands, the popinjays!
and no time for parley. I just flashed up 'most before I saw them,
divining in my heart, and slippit behind the curtain that is over yonder
sma' door, Margaret, you will mind? I just lingered to see that it was
safe, and heard their outcry, 'Where is she?' and 'Call forth the
leddy,' which proved they had not seen me—though one cried there was
some person gone forth, and another that he had heard a step—which was
a muckle lee, whoever told it," cried Jean, pausing in her childish
sense of triumph yet injury; "you ken whether I have a foot like a
trooper, to be heard among armed men."
"Thus I got to the stable," she went on, "like an arrow from a bow: and
Jaicque, who is faithful, and me, that have saddled her many a day, we
got on her gear before you could turn round, and away by the back of the
outhouses, and the bridle-path by Kellie Mill, and never a soul to hear
us or see us, all the gaping fools about being out to see the gallants'
train. And here I am," she cried, suddenly pausing and looking round. Up
to this moment her tone had been almost joyous, her bearing almost gay,
in the heat of excitement and novelty, which were life to this young
creature. She stopped, and her countenance changed. She looked round
upon them—the Mistress at the stair-head wringing her hands, the young
master of Over-Kellie standing at the pony's head, with a sobered
wistful look of discouragement and downfall, nobody, as it seemed,
sympathetic but Margaret, who, excited like herself, half crying, half
laughing, had clasped the hands which still held the bridle, caressing
them in the absence of other means of showing her pity and her love.
"Now I am here," repeated Jean, slowly, a sudden cloud of surprise and
dismay sweeping over her, "but you are not glad to see me. O Pate
Oliphant, Pate Oliphant, take your hand from my bridle! Next of kin you
may be, but no next of heart!"
"You silly lassie!" cried the Mistress, taking, though she was a little
timid and cautious in her elder days, but two steps down the four
If I had space I would tell how Jean came to understand the saddened
looks of her next of kin, and how Pate discovered that no popinjay of
them all was in her eyes half the man that he was, though he had refused
to take up arms or spend men's lives in a hopeless cause. They had to
subdue their pride to the acceptance of their fate, which was much
harder upon Peter Oliphant—born, you would have said, to no
better—than on Mistress Jean, though her proud cousins called her no
more than the Gudewife of Over-Kellie, scorning her blood and her
rights. But the family kept their homely life there unbroken for many
generations, keeping up the old name and kindly tradition long after the
Lords Oliphant, though this is no brag of a child of Over-Kellie, but a
sad saying, were, like the Flowers of the Forest, a' wede away. There
was another lawsuit, of which no better came; but Peter Oliphant of
Over-Kellie, though no more than a bonnet-laird, no doubt, "with his
bairns and his oyes all around him, oh," came to be more or less a
contented man. He knew French to a certain degree, as has been said,
thanks to Maister Melville, whose breeding and education had been much
in foreign countries; and though he pronounced it like good broad Scots,
and was no professor for the grammar, here is this little composition of
his in that language, beaten out as he went about his fields through
many a quiet day, and pondered his life and the life of man in the long
silence of the years. À tout pourvoir had been the proud device of his
youth, when everything seemed within his power; but this was what he
put into that old tongue of gallant device as the burden of his age,
with the accent of Scotland and of long life—
Autant qu'a pu,
And may we all say as much, however humbly, his descendant prayeth, at
the end of the dim valley from whence begins to glow over the dark braes
the rising of a better sun.
[The Lord Oliphant, perhaps harshly treated above, was a man of many
troubles and difficulties, much like those of Sir Walter of Kellie, whom
he succeeded. He, too, died with no son to follow, and would have passed
over his daughter; and a romance of mingled lawsuits and royal
interference might well be made out of his history and that of his
successors—but this must be for another hand. As dates are the useful
things that are most apt to fail in family tradition, I do not attempt
to say which of his successors sold Kellie Castle—to them a useless and
unnecessary burden, though so dear to those who lost it—to the family
of Erskine, who took from it in later days a title, and made it their